The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Obama promises more aid to Haiti despite high cost of helping

Photo of Aleksandra Kulczuga
Aleksandra Kulczuga
Contributor

President Obama met Haitian President René Préval at the White House on Wednesday with a promise of further American aid for the Caribbean nation. According to U.S.A.I.D., the United States to date has donated $712.7 million — far more than any other country — to Haiti in the wake of its Jan. 12 earthquake. Also on Wednesday, the USNS Comfort floating hospital left Hispaniola’s waters after almost seven weeks in the region. A total of 871 patients were treated and 843 surgical procedures were performed aboard.

The Comfort set sail for Haiti on Jan. 16 as an estimated 300,000 wounded Haitians despaired for lack of medical care.

With 1,000 patients beds and almost 560 medical personnel, the Navy reported in this video it was capable of treating more than 500 patients a day. The figure seemed realistic — civilian organizations can do as much. Last August, for example, the Remote Area Medical (RAM) Corps, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing health care in remote areas, set up a free clinic for the poor and uninsured in Inglewood, Calif. In a single week 1,500 people were treated for various ailments, including dental and vision care.

Air lifting all patients on and off the boat was certainly part of the bottleneck.

However, The Baltimore Sun reported:

“You can’t expect the Comfort to bring the entire country up to the standards of the U.S. health care system, but there has to be some bailout capacity,” Pollak said.

Military physicians say privately that the Haiti relief mission was complicated by the endless need for advanced care for patients whose conditions were unrelated to the Jan. 12 disaster.

In Haiti primarily to treat fractures and crush injuries from the earthquake, the crew was inundated with patients suffering from diseases, heart trouble, infections and other ailments that owed more to the country’s lack of development than to the earthquake.

The Navy was unable to provide a cost estimate for operating the Comfort, but fuel costs alone are staggering. The ship carries more than 1 million gallons of fuel and refueled at least once during its mission to Haiti. At minimum, the Navy spent 2 million gallons of fuel treating fewer than 1,000 people – if it’s using marine fuel which is roughly $4 a gallon, that’s $8 million in fuel. That’s roughly $9,184 per patient, just to keep fuel in the tanks.

Contact Aleksandra at: ak[at]dailycaller[dot]com.

  • Pingback: The Angry White Guy » Blog Archive » $100’s of millions of taxpayer money sent to Haiti

  • patrick

    This is a microcosm of govt run healthcare. efficiency and low cost have no place at the table.

  • monkeysuit

    He must be getting another loan from China!!! I know we should help but why are we always head and shoulders above the rest of the world in our financial giving?

    Monkeysuit
    http://randompoliticalthoughtsandnews.blogspot.com/

  • windrdr

    Stepping back and taking a look at the employment of the USNS Comfort does reveal some eyebrow raising features – however, there are some aspects which are skipped over in the article. The impression I’ve gotten, via continual correspondence with a friend deployed aboard the Comfort, is that one of the factors in the deployment decision wasn’t simply the total patient capacity, but the specialized capabilites that were brought by the Comfort that you simply do not get with most other portable/deployable packages – and the Comfort was just about the only way to get those capabiities to the scene, quickly, without adding to the very congested ‘air bridge’. The Comfort supplied capabilities like MRI, CT, a full up ICU (including neo natal), just off the top of my head from what my contact related.

    One thing that did seem strange to me was that the ship was kept out in the middle of the bay, and medevac choppers were the primary means of getting critical care (with the ‘basics’ covered onshore, it was generally the ‘tough’ cases that went to Comfort) getting patients aboard – although, once treated, many were returned to shore via boat. This may have been due to earthquake damage at the port/dock facilities, and concerns about damaging the ship – I don’t know for sure about that, it wasn’t something my contact and I discussed directly.

    Also not noted in the article was the employment of Comfort medical staff ashore – while my contact did not supply specifics (as our contact was not of an interview/monitoring nature), edical personnel did travel ashore to assist/spell/relieve/augment shore based teams and efforts. Again, on what scale, I have no idea, but the folks involved didn’t spend the entire time stuck on a big white boat twiddling their thumbs waiting for waves of patients that never materialized.

    Not being involved in any way in the decision making process, I’m not making an argument one way or the other on the wisdom of sending the Comfort. Also, not being an accountant, nor adjudicator of cost/benefit ratios for health care, I’m not putting forth an opinion from that perspective, either. Simply putting forth information I’ve become privvy to via interactions with one of the non-management, non-executive participants, that doesn’t appear to be reflected in the article posted.

    TIFWIW.

    • windrdr

      Oh, and one other detail I left out – the Comfort departed station in Haiti (believe they left early yesterday), and is currently enroute back to Baltimore. So it’s not still sitting there ‘just burning money’, as it were.

    • Aleksandra Kulczuga

      Good point – I also heard the Docs went ashore to help, and I don’t think by any means that they were twiddling their thumbs. The Navy however didn’t give numbers on other aid provided. Thanks for pointing this out.

      • windrdr

        You’re most welcome, Aleksandra.

      • windrdr

        Here’s a link to a picture of the first set of twins born on the Comfort, courtesy of my onboard contact.

        http://silentrunning.tv/?p=3456

      • windrdr

        Yet more info – this directly from my contact aboard, after I steered him to these articles (mildly edited for personal info)

        [. . .] While I can not defend the amount of money spent by USAID in helping Haiti. I can explain a little about how and why we operated the way we did. We did not pull into port and make fast at a pier for a couple of simple reasons. The water is to shallow to for our ship to safely Navigate. Plus as you look through some of the photos I posted you can see the only terminal suffered severe damage. Those cranes used to be perched on a pier that is now under 20’ of water. The cases that we handled on board were the Critical/Life Threatening patients. If we had not been able to provide the ADVANCED medical care that we did, most assuredly 95% of our patients would have died. Theses were not people that needed a few stitches and some aspirin. We are talking about people with compound femur fractures, crushed pelvis’s, crushed skulls, gangrene so far advanced you could visibly see it off-gassing. The level of medical care that we were able to provide was quite far advanced. One of the reasons why our patient numbers were so “low” is that all of the people seen onboard here, required extensive post operative care, averaging 10-12 days. Although the ship is equipped with 1000 beds, they were designed with ambulatory Marines in mind. Designed for people that could basically take care of themselves, use the head on their own, feed themselves, and only need short duration care, such as a simple broken leg or arm, minor gunshot wound, minor burn victims. Not patients suffering from multiple amputations, Neuro surgery, reconstructive facial surgery. Some quite complicated stuff was going on here. Also another reason that we stayed at anchor is to keep the “trivial” medical needs from besieging the ship. A story from right before we left….A person was hit in the head with falling concrete. Resulting in the crushing of the frontal portion of their skull. We saved the patients life, removed the debris from their brain, pulled out the broken and worthless pieces of the bone, grafted new skin on their noggin, took several CAT scans, and are presently having a prosthetic plate made that will cover the hole in their head that the injury left, and enable this person to live a fairly normal life once the plate is installed. When I saw the last fuel bill, the cost of Diesel for Marine (DFM) was $2.82. The amount that we took, was to replace what was used from the last refill last summer, and will hold the ship through it’s normal operations until next Feb when it is scheduled to go out on a Humanitarian Aid Mission. [...] As you pointed out in your reply to the writer, I am not an official source of info, I am just relaying what I observed.

  • rainmaker1145

    Figures. The ship handled an average of 18 new patients a day. They would have gotten the same impact by setting up a MASH unit and probably saved well over a 1.5 million gallons of fuel. Another case of the management approach of “style over substance”. The Comfort looks good, but whether it does good is another thing. It looks good spending $700+ million on Haiti but where is the accounting of the money? Oh, we aren’t supposed to ask…

  • tomdoff

    Geez, if the US can afford to provide ‘Single-Payer’ health care to Haitians, on the US-taxpayer tab, why can’t it do it for Americans?